By the Nagazasshi Staff
A French mystery TV series formed around Arsène Lupin, the famous gentleman thief and master of disguise. Unlike the very popular BBC show Sherlock whose universe does not have Arthur Conan Doyle’s books (author of the original Sherlock Holmes), our main character, Assane Diop, is very much aware of writer Maurice Leblanc and his works. His actions and “crimes” are often taken straight from Leblanc’s stories and create the framework for each episode. Just five episodes in all (for now), Lupin has drama, revenge, wit, and even explores the racism hidden in French society, making it perfect for a Netflix binge night.
The Good Place (2016-2020)
What happens when you die? According to this fantastical comedy series, you’ll end up in a heavenly “Good Place” or hellish “Bad Place” depending on the morality points you accumulated during your time on Earth. Eleanor Shellstrop finds herself in the Good Place after a life as a lawyer who saved the lives of those on death row. The problem is, that wasn’t her life: she was a selfish saleswoman who scammed the sick and elderly. With the help of Chidi Anagonye, a professor of ethics, she tries to hide her immoral past by bettering herself in the afterlife. This 53-episode series made me laugh a lot, cry a little, and even ponder some of life’s big philosophical questions. Each episode is only about 20 minutes, so open Netflix and give it a shot!
Golden Kamuy (ゴールデンカムイ) (2018-)
A thrilling anime about a soldier of the Russo-Japanese war who teams up with an Ainu girl to find a secret trove of Ainu gold. Set in Hokkaido during the early 1900s, this anime has a thrilling plot line with a diverse range of characters that continually evolve over the three seasons that have so far aired. It can be a bit gruesome at times but it also has sweeter moments and is unexpectedly funny. Golden Kamuy is both entertaining and educational as it showcases Ainu culture and what Japanese life was like in the 1900s. Learn while you watch!
Kimono Mom’s Kitchen (YouTube)
Y’all, I’m obsessed. Moe, known online as Kimono Mom, is a YouTuber who shows Japanese cooking, life in Tokyo, and her family life (which is as wholesome as can be). One of the things that makes her cooking videos so special is that she uses ingredients that are easily found abroad. Of course many of us reading this live in Japan, but for those of us who don’t, Kimono Mom gives great tutorials on how to make delicious Japanese home cooking without specialty Japanese ingredients. The other thing that makes her cooking videos so special is her two-year-old daughter, Sutan. She is the cutest chef’s assistant ever! Moe’s husband also makes frequent appearances and draws the artwork for the channel. Moe and her family always put the best foot forward in life, in parenthood, and of course in the kitchen.
What Did You Eat Last Night? (Kinou Nani Tabeta? きのう何食べた?) (2019)
Based on a 2007 Japanese comic with the same name, What Did You Eat Last Night? is about Shiro and Kenji, a middle-aged gay couple living in Tokyo. The series highlights the ups and downs of their lives and the challenges they both face as gay men, and features them coming together every night and making a delicious dinner. The series is surprisingly slice of life and easy to enjoy, while at the same time addressing Shiro and Kanji’s relationship in a profound way. Their relationship subverts the typical depictions of gay men in Japanese media and depicts them as a very realistic older gay couple. As a queer man, I loved seeing the two bicker over silly things and deal with issues I have come across in my time living in Japan. Seeing an older gay couple on screen is so reaffirming. It warms my heart and seeing what they cook inspires me to not order take out. The series is on Netflix and has 12 episodes, so please check it out!
OMORI (2020 videogame)
Warning: this is an indie psychological horror RPG that flips from “happy go-lucky, what a cute story!” to “dear god, I’m not sleeping for the next week because nightmares are real.” Omori was developed by OMOCAT. Her works, merchandise, and web comics are influenced by Japanese pop culture (read: anime). Omori was released in December 2020 for Microsoft Windows and macOS, but has Nintendo Switch, PlayStation, and Xbox versions in development. The game tells the story of a hikikomori (a shut-in) named Sunny and his dream world alter-ego, Omori. Sunny explores both the real world and his strange, strange dream world, working to overcome his repressed fears and secrets. He is joined by his three friends that help him in turn-based battles against fantastical enemies, with status effects based on the characters’ emotions. The game has multiple endings based on the player’s choices — some of which are quite dark, so you’ve been warned. Omori received praise from critics for its hand-drawn graphics, story, characters, battle system, and soundtrack. The game has also been compared to EarthBound, Yume Nikki, and Undertale. If you liked any of those games, you’ll like this one, too!
Yuru Camp (Laid-back Camp) (2019-2020)
This lackadaisical anime follows a group of high-schoolers in Yamanashi prefecture as they create friendships in their outdoor camping club. Camping has seen a big boom in the past year as a social-distance friendly form of travel, and Yuru Camp gives people the opportunity to experience it from the comfort of their own homes. Whether it’s a multi-day trip with friends or a solo day outing, Yuru Camp gives you all the practical advice you need, as well as the beautiful scenery of Northern Japan to daydream about. This show is available on Netflix, and although there’s no English subtitles, the slow pace and simple plot make it excellent listening practice while also providing great vocabulary resources for anyone looking to camp in the future. Regardless, Yuru Camp is a cozy watch that will warm you up during these last cold months.